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Associate Professor Kala Saravanamuthu

Associate Professor

Newcastle Business School (Accounting and Finance)

Socio-environmental Impacts Considered in Risk Management

Dr Saravanamuthu's primary area of research is in developing holistic and emancipatory accountability and decision-making tools that create change from the conventional pursuit of economic returns to more sustainable interaction with nature.


Dr Saravanamuthu has recently developed software that constructs Integrated Risk Assessments which assimilate socio-environmental attributes of how economic developments impact on a local catchment. The software relies on competing stakeholders and experts identifying socio-environmental attributes relevant to a particular catchment, and then suggesting a risk profile for each attribute. The software uses semi-qualitative risk language to combine these indicators into integrated, visual accounts. These two steps are repeated iteratively until all stakeholders agree to the risk profile generated.

The semi-qualitative risk language Dr Saravanamuthu's assessment employs accounts for the complexities and uncertainties not reflected in conventional assessments such as Cost-Benefit Analysis.

This software benefits all participating stakeholders involved in the construction of integrated risk assessments including investors, growers, industrialists and developers. Opinions of the local community can easily be acknowledged in an open process. As the process is transparent, regulators can use the assessment for their evaluation and technical experts can communicate the real-world relevance of their work to non-experts.

Socio-environmental Impacts Considered in Risk Management

Dr Saravanamuthu's primary area of research is in developing holistic and emancipatory accountability and decision-making tools that create change from the conventional pursuit of economic returns to more sustainable interaction with nature. Dr Saravanamuthu has recently developed software that constructs…

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Career Summary


  • PhD, University of South Australia
  • Bachelor of Accountancy, University of Malaya
  • Master of Science (Management), University of Durham


  • Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Decision-making

Fields of Research

140399Econometrics not elsewhere classified10
150102Auditing and Accountability90

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

DatesTitleOrganisation / Department
1/07/2014 - 30/06/2015DBA SupervisorUniversity of Newcastle
Newcastle Business School
1/01/2014 - Associate ProfessorUniversity of Newcastle
Newcastle Business School


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (3 outputs)

2006Saravanamuthu K, 'Ghandian-Vedic paradigm: theorising sustainable development', Methodological Issues in Accounting Research: Theories and Methods, Spiramus Press, London, United Kingdom 291-333 (2006) [B1]
2006Saravanamuthu K, 'Foundation principles governing accounting: revisiting the representation of business activities', Sustainable Development: Policy and Administration, Taylor & Francis, London, United Kingdom 611-633 (2006) [B1]
2005Saravanamuthu K, 'Benchmarking: Fragmenting public policy', International Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility, Ansted University Press, Penang, Malaysia 67-96 (2005) [B1]

Journal article (21 outputs)

2014Saravanamuthu K, Yap C, 'Pedagogy to empower Chinese Learners to adapt to western learning circumstances: a longitudinal case-study', Cambridge Journal of Education, 44 361-384 (2014) [C1]

Deficit theorisations of Chinese Learners studying in western countries are criticised for dichotomising learning attributes into Surface- or Deep-learning approaches. Subsequent context-dependent, small culture studies of students transiting between cultures theorise learning as a dynamic journey of adapting to a range/continuum of learning attributes. Here we employ the transformative learning theory to examine whether pedagogical interventions could facilitate adaptation to deeper learning strategies by couching discipline-specific detail/facts within the discipline's theoretical structure. Our longitudinal case-study of Chinese Learners in an Australian tertiary institution revealed that (1) Achievement-motivated CLs were more likely to harness the benefits of this discipline-specific pedagogical intervention and move towards independent, student-centred learning than Surface-motivated CLs; (2) Achievement-motivated CLs were less likely to normalise teacher-centredness than Surface-motivated CLs despite being exposed to examination tips early in their enrolment; and (3) fluency in the host language is instrumental to adapting successfully to deeper learning. © 2014 © 2014 University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education.

Co-authorsChristine Yap
2013Saravanamuthu K, Lehman C, 'Enhancing stakeholder interaction through environmental risk accounts', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24 410-437 (2013) [C1]

Accounting should mobilise growing awareness of environmental degradation into harm mitigation strategies by representing humanity's relational existence with nature. Catchment-oriented accounting directs attention to the harm inflicted by unsustainable practices by integrating measurements of the multiple causes of degradation into meaningful accounts. We propose a semi-qualitative risk matrix to enhance stakeholder participation in the construction of these accounts: our matrix allows lay-stakeholders to use their lived experiences to socialise expert measurements, and thus embark on a journey of learning socially about sustainable living. An irrigation case-study is used to evaluate the extent to which irrigators displayed the following social learning capacities through their contribution to the construction of risk accounts on the impact of irrigation on their catchment: awareness of each other's competing-and-interdependent goals and perspectives, shared problem identification, appreciation of the complex issues at hand, motivation to work collaboratively, trust and the creation of formal-informal relationships. Four of seven irrigators displayed many of these capacities as they contested unsustainable values embedded in conventional irrigation discourse, and articulated less harmful priorities. The remaining irrigators took advantage of the analytical-deliberative spaces (provided by our matrix and accounts) to better appreciate the environmental impact of irrigation. © 2013 .

2013Saravanamuthu K, Brooke C, Gaffikin M, 'ERP and precautionary ethics: Harnessing critical thinking to engender sustainability', Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, 11 92-111 (2013) [C1]

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to review critical emancipatory literature to identify a discourse that could be used to successfully customise generic Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to particular user-needs. The customisation exercise is posited in the context of contemporary society, which has to try to become more sustainable amidst uncertainty about the complex interrelationships between elements of the ecosystem. It raises new challenges for the customisation exercise, that of fostering the precautionary ethos and engaging realistically with complexity and uncertainty inherent in emergent knowledge about ecological resilience. Design/methodology/approach: This is a conceptual paper that draws on published research papers to tease out political constructs which are vital for facilitating sustainable decisions. Findings: This paper argues that the critical emancipatory influence on systems design has generated attempts to formulate socio-ethical information systems. However, these systems are limited by their inability to engage with the politics of asymmetrical distribution of power, even though these systems rely on bottom-up participation to change the status quo. Hence, it is suggested that systems design should learn from Gandhi's experiences in mobilising social reform to instil a precautionary ethos in the context of asymmetrical power relations. The discourse used to customise ERP should facilitate social learning about ecological resilience as it affects the capacity to reform in the interest of sustainable outcomes. It is proposed that the discourse be socially constructed on the vocabulary of integrated risk because it would enable management to take advantage of lived experiences and enhance the organisation's capacity to learn about formulating sustainable business practices. Practical implications: The recommended approach to identifying user-needs (in customising ERP) is based on Gandhi's tried-and-tested approaches of mobilising bottom-up participation in social reform. Originality/value: This paper brings in Eastern philosophy (namely Advaitic thinking) into the predominately Western-dominated systems design arena. Its value lies in its practical applicability to real-world design challenges. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

CitationsScopus - 1
2013Saravanamuthu K, Brooke C, Gaffikin M, 'The next phase in information management: using risk to integrate data and facilitate social learning about sustainability', International Journal of Business and Systems Research, 7 266-291 (2013) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 1
2009Kaufman A, Saravanamuthu K, 'The dilemma in monitoring voluntary labour standards: Labour's 'muted' consent to exploit itself', Advances in Public Interest Accounting, 14 297-319 (2009) [C1]
2009Saravanamuthu K, 'Guest editor', Advances in Public Interest Accounting, 14 (2009) [C2]
2009Saravanamuthu K, 'Developing Schumacher's total accounting into an accountability interface between the science of climate change and the sustainability discourse', Advances in Public Interest Accounting, 14 3-11 (2009) [C1]
2009Saravanamuthu K, 'A journey of socialising the risks associated with global warming: A Gandhian insight into Schumacher's total accounting and accountability', Advances in Public Interest Accounting, 14 121-189 (2009) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 5
2008Saravanamuthu K, 'Reflecting on the Biggs-Watkins theory of the Chinese Learner', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 19 138-180 (2008) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 13
2008Saravanamuthu K, Tinker T, 'Ethics in Education: Chinese Learner and post-Enron ethics', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 19 129-137 (2008) [C1]
CitationsScopus - 5
2007Saravanamuthu K, 'Gandhian-Vedic Emancipatory Accounting: Engendering a Spiritual Revolution in the Interest of Sustainable Development', Advances in Public Interest Accounting, 13 177-235 (2007) [C1]

The Gandhian-Vedic approach to development is synonymous with the advancement of spiritual agency. It emancipates society by trying to raise people's interconnectedness with nature, mitigating capitalism's hegemony of consumerism on people's psyche and hence reducing the chances of individuals perpetuating the cycle of exploitation by adhering to capitalist norms. That is, the Gandhian-Vedic approach to discursive accountability minimises the risk of circularity in the dialectics of contradictions, which occurs when consenting behaviour replaces existing contradictions with another set of contradictions. It enables the actor to step off capitalism's treadmill of materialism and exploitation by centralising spiritual development. Its spiritual revolution involves caring for the whole whilst engaging with social structures. Here the Gandhian-Vedic logic is extended to emancipatory accounting by developing accounting as a discursive risk assessment tool that minimises the fragmentation of time and space aspects of performance. Its holistic representation of performance could change perceptions about interconnectedness between an individual's behaviour, nature and society. It is the antithesis of conventional accounting's prioritisation of private interest over responsibility for the whole. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

CitationsScopus - 2
2006Saravanamuthu K, 'Emancipatory accounting and sustainable development: A Gandhian-Vedic theorization of experimenting with truth', SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, 14 234-244 (2006) [C1]
DOI10.1002/sd.266Author URL
CitationsScopus - 10Web of Science - 7
2005Saravanamuthu K, 'Benchmarking: A socio-economic interrogation of its global-local disconnect', Critical Perspectives on International Business, 1 20-42 (2005) [C1]

Purpose - To examine how the construction of benchmarks influences the discourse of national productivity, and hence shed light on the competitive-interdependent relationship between global capital and domestic labour. Design/methodology/approach - A study of a government inquiry into the Australian automotive industry (in 1996) is used to argue that the formulation of socially conscionable public policy is made more difficult by the international legitimisation of benchmarks. Findings - The inclusion of structural factors will mitigate the power of accounting discourse to normalise behaviour because it gives rise to glaring discrepancies between shared experiences and accounting's inscribed reality. The inscribed reality is distorted by the decontextualised nature of benchmarks. Further, the global legitimisation of benchmarks makes it more difficult for the state to disregard their influence. Originality/value - Combines, compares and re-evaluates earlier literature and studies. Leaves the door open for the practice of benchmarking to emphasise a process of establishing sustainable local goals, rather than a means of institutionalising a dominant mode of production across the globe.© Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

CitationsScopus - 1
DOI10.1016/S1041-7060(05)11001-3Author URL
CitationsWeb of Science - 2
2004Saravanamuthu K, 'What is measured counts: Harmonized corporate reporting and sustainable economic development', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 15 295-302 (2004) [C1]

Keynes argued for the continued prioritization of economic goals over social needs on grounds that the time was not right for social conscience to prevail: "For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight" (1930, cited in Schumacher, 1973, p. 22). This essay illustrates therole that accounting plays in confining management practices within the "economic necessity" tunnel amidst social and environmental degradation. A recent report on The World Bank's performance in developing countries is used to argue that the conventional accounting framework is not an appropriate tool to guide organized effort in balancing the competing-interdependent needs of multiple stakeholders. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

CitationsScopus - 23
2004Saravanamuthu K, 'Gold-collarism in the Academy: The dilemma in transforming bean-counters into knowledge consultants', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 15 587-607 (2004) [C1]

Kelley (1985) coins the term "gold-collar" to signify the end of knowledge workers' struggle for control over the labour process. He argues that their ability to turn knowledge into profits make them crucial for the survival of the firm in the Information Age. Kelley's win-win outcome (making the world a better place) is dependent on the formulation of new rules of engagement and accountability to harness gold-collar knowledge and creativity. By definition, gold-collarism includes accountants and it draws attention to the "ethics versus profits" dilemma the profession is embroiled in. The (gold-collared) profession appears to have abandoned its public interest role for a more lucrative one of consulting-partner to the business community despite its presumed impartiality in transforming management's rules of engagement (with multiple stakeholders). Further, its pronouncements on future directions seek to commodify accounting education to produce compliant hegemonic technicians. It should instead seek to formulate ethical accountability by enabling a healthy struggle over ideologies. This paper applies Gramsci's (1971, 1995) dialectic of formative-instructive education to argue that it is an opportune moment for critical accounting to raise awareness of the politics behind these rules of engagement - as a precursor to innovating sustainable business practices for the 21st century. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

CitationsScopus - 12
2004Saravanamuthu K, Filling S, 'A critical response to managerialism in the Academy', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 15 437-452 (2004) [C1]

This editorial-cum-introduction to A Critical Response to Managerialism in the Academy uses the dialectic between components of New Public Management (namely, cost efficiency and public accountability) to connect all papers in this special issue. It draws on earlier studies on the New Public Management ethos to explain academics' responses to managerialist teaching and research initiatives. And in the aftermath of the Enron et al., disasters it also explores means to revive accounting as an ethical discipline. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

CitationsScopus - 13
2003Saravanamuthu K, Tinker T, 'Politics of managing: the dialectic of control', ACCOUNTING ORGANIZATIONS AND SOCIETY, 28 37-64 (2003) [C1]
DOI10.1016/S0361-3682(02)00009-0Author URL
CitationsScopus - 25Web of Science - 8
2002Saravanamuthu K, 'Information technology and ideology', JOURNAL OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, 17 79-87 (2002)
DOI10.1080/02683960210145977Author URL
CitationsScopus - 15Web of Science - 13
2002Saravanamuthu K, 'The political lacuna in participatory systems design', JOURNAL OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, 17 185-198 (2002)
DOI10.1080/0268396022000017743Author URL
CitationsScopus - 13Web of Science - 6
2002Saravanamuthu K, Tinker T, 'The university in the new corporate world', Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 13 545-554 (2002)
CitationsScopus - 23
Show 18 more journal articles

Conference (2 outputs)

2011Saravanamuthu K, Lehman C, Nyamori RO, 'Facilitating social learning by integrating the multiple attributes of environmental degradation into risk-based accounts', Critical Perspectives on Accounting 2011 Conference Papers, Clearwater Beach, FL (2011) [E1]
2009Saravanamuthu K, Lehman C, 'Accounting for the climate change footprint: Socialising the risk attributes of a carbon-intensive economy', IPA 2009 Program, Innsbruck, Austria (2009) [E3]

Grants and Funding


Number of grants3
Total funding$24,290

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20121 grants / $8,072

Phase 2 of pilot study that seeks to improve management of the natural water cycle by providing stakeholders with integrated risk assessments.$8,072

Funding body: Lake Macquarie City Council

Funding bodyLake Macquarie City Council
Project TeamAssociate Professor Kala Saravanamuthu
SchemeLake Macquarie Environmental Research Grant
Funding Start2012
Funding Finish2012
Type Of FundingOther Public Sector - Local

20101 grants / $15,654

Pilot study that seeks to improve management of the natural water cycle by providing stakeholders with integrated risk assessments$15,654

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding bodyUniversity of Newcastle
Project TeamAssociate Professor Kala Saravanamuthu
SchemeSpecial Project Grant
Funding Start2010
Funding Finish2010
Type Of FundingInternal

20091 grants / $564

Developing and using multiple criteria risk-management models employing financial and non-financial data to measure sustainable development in local communities: A case-study methodology$564

Funding body: CPA Australia

Funding bodyCPA Australia
Project TeamAssociate Professor Kala Saravanamuthu, Emeritus Professor Jack Flanagan
SchemeResearch Grant
Funding Start2009
Funding Finish2009
Type Of FundingContract - Aust Non Government

Research Supervision

Current Supervision

CommencedResearch Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2013Professional Accounting Labour Market: Accounting for Recruitment Decisions
Accounting, Faculty of Business and Law

Associate Professor Kala Saravanamuthu


Associate Professor
Newcastle Business School
Faculty of Business and Law

DBA Supervisor
Newcastle Business School
Faculty of Business and Law

Focus area

Accounting and Finance

Contact Details
Phone(02) 4921 7226


RoomSRS 211
BuildingSocial Science
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308